What happens at self-empowerment conferences?
“Who are all these people? And why are most of them wearing cheap DayGlo hoodies?” Jax asked, pursing his lips in mild disgust.
“Our fellow conference attendees are wearing Safe Hoodies,” Jillian explained carefully. “They are available in a variety of aura-lifting colors and body-acceptance sizes. Wearing Safe Hoodies shows our unity. We, as warrior-survivors, are in a safe place, safe just in ourselves.”
“Oh hon, we are safely in Plano, Texas . . . The only crime in 70 square miles is that woman’s pantsuit,” Jax replied, looking down his nose, over his glasses. “Her choice of apparel is a felony in at least a dozen states.”
“You are being unkind,” Jillian warned her snarky friend. “That woman was influenced by her own mother’s fashion choices, undoubtedly influenced by thousands of years of toxic masculinity. Her pantsuit is a byproduct of systematic oppression.”
“Look. At. Her.” Jax pointed. “Her pantsuit is a byproduct of double worsted polyester—”
“You need to stop, Jax. You are so programmed. Let’s find our seats. The keynote speaker is amazing!”
“She’s twenty minutes late,” he groused. “Wasn’t this supposed to kick off at 9:00 a.m.?”
“Twenty minutes of personal reflection time is a gift we give ourselves,” Jillian said. “On a daily basis, we need to identify how much both society and our families have let us down. That’s the theme of this year’s conference: They’ve all let us down. Don’t let it go.”
“First, what is it? And second, why would you want to keep it?” He stage-whispered loud enough for three rows in all directions to hear.
“Shhh,” a young woman with a severe bob haircut hissed at them.
Jax pantomimed zipping his mouth shut and throwing away the key. Severe bob haircut quickly turned back around in a huff, clearly triggered.
They all watched as a tall elegant woman in her late 30’s took to the podium, wearing a gently patronizing smile across her flawless face. Her face was displayed in Wizard of Oz-like proportions just behind her on the jumbo screen.
Jax started to applaud when Jillian quickly grabbed his hands before he could clap. He glared at her. “Are you holding my hand? Sorry, I don’t like you that way.”
“We do NOT clap,” Jillian aggressively whispered. “Don’t embarrass me.”
“And why don’t we clap?”
“Because clapping derives from the most egregious form of Western hegemony: Ancient Rome. The playwright Plautus wrote plaudite at the end of his plays—”
“Meaning his plays were over and people should express their appreciation . . . ?”
“It was a directive for the audience to applaud. Very classist. Very elitist. Very Marxist. Shhh. Listen to the keynote speaker . . .”
“Welcome, my fellow Wallowteers! I’m Doctor Wendy Willingstone, and I officially greet you not as others, but as fellow beings to the 2021 Don’t Let It Go!”
“She’s a doctor?” Jax asked incredulously.
“I think she’s a chiropractor—” Jillian replied.
“I paid $79.99 to hear from a chiropractor? Jillian, chiropractic medicine is a pseudoscience. It’s not even related to counseling or therapy. What is she going to do—manipulate our collective spines to rid us of the trauma of bedwetting?”
“Jax—” she whispered almost violently. “You said you’d come to understand yourself better.”
Jax rolled his eyes, mumbling: “I understand I’m out eighty bucks.”
“It’s been a great year to really examine the role childhood anxiety plays in all of our adult lives,” Dr. Willingstone continued. “And since most of you are living with your parents, I’m sure you’ve taken your morning reflection time to deconstruct the extent of damage your primary gender role models have caused you,” she paused dramatically.
The audience nodded and murmured with approval.
“Let me just say I hear you,” Dr. Willingstone continued. “I hear you because of my active listening skills, as discussed in my latest book, available at the back of the auditorium. You may want to make an investment in yourself.” She paused as lights lit up a table in the back next to a cash register.
“$79.99 was just an installment?” Jax whispered again to Jillian. Jillian fired back a death glare.
“I validate the schema of where you were, and I rejoice in the projection of the who that is who you really are. By the end of this conference, your psychogenic mind-body connection will be better as we don’t let it go.” At this point, the speaker reached out her arms, as if wanting to give a healing hug to the entire audience, mostly women in their 20’s and 30’s, who now wiped away freely flowing tears on their faces.
Jax muttered out of the side of his mouth to Jillian, “I only understood about 37% of what she just said. Do I get a partial refund?”
“Shhh!” Severe bob haircut firmly expressed her displeasure with Jax.
“You can just stop shushing me right now. I’m feeling attacked,” Jax said loudly, placing his hand on his chest. Severe bob haircut looked momentarily shamed.
Jillian put her hand over Jax’s mouth.
“So my warrior-survivors, we have an embarrassment of riches in our work this afternoon. After your box lunch selection of either a free-range cheese sandwich or a faux-tuna sub, you will have three breakout Thinking Pods to choose from. For unspecific parental issues, we have the Oedipal-and-Electra-isn’t-so-complex course in Ballroom A. For childhood trauma over birth order, the oldest children will meet in the elegant corporate lounge with a very detailed, structured curriculum, while the youngest children—the babies of the family!—will have complete autonomy in the hotel’s fitness center. The meeting for middle children has been canceled due to unforeseen circumstances.”
“Of course,” Jax said. Jillian sharply elbowed him.
“Stay present as I go over a few more details. We realize your parents did significant damage to your inner child, so additional classes are being offered for an extra fee. You may register for Healing Talks to deal with having to move during your K-12 school years, losing your best friend in 9th grade, not getting what you really wanted for Christmas, and being served foods that tasted “yicky” but were allegedly good for you.
A very special Healing Talk will be available to cover related trauma to O-foods, such as olives, onions, okra and oysters.”
At this Jax stood to leave.
“Jax, where are you going?”
“Jillian, thanks for thinking of me, darling, but this has been a colossal waste of time and money.”
“Jax, I’m sorry—”
“I know you are, hon. But I love my father, I love my mother, and hell—I even love okra. I wasn’t traumatized as a child, and I don’t need imaginary things to get over. Imaginary friends, maybe. Imaginary things? Not so much.”
“Are you really leaving?”
“I am, Baby Doll,” he said, kissing her on both cheeks. “I hope you find what you need here, but just a little advice from me? DayGlo hasn’t looked good on anyone since the 1990’s.”